WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 – The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved today a US$300 million program focused on improving the performance and local governance of municipalities, as a first step toward supporting the Tunisian national priority of decentralization. For the seven million Tunisians, 70 percent of the total population, who live in cities, the program aims to empower municipalities to make decisions, raise their capacity to deliver services and make them more accountable to their citizens.
The Urban Development and Local Governance Program will encompass all of Tunisia’s 264 municipalities, and support the government’s own 2014 to 2019 municipal investment plan. While they vary in size, Tunisian municipalities have historically shared the common characteristics of limited decision-making powers, weak financial and managerial capacity, a relatively limited role in local development and very limited connection with citizens. The challenges are especially acute in municipalities in disadvantaged regions.
“Tunisia has embarked on the historic task of reorganizing the way decision making in response to citizen needs and priorities is distributed, putting decentralization at the heart of its new Constitution” said Inger Andersen, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region; “This program will make a vital contribution toward preparing municipal governments for assuming full responsibility for planning and funding their municipal investments and building new social contracts with their citizens”
Along with initiatives to strengthen the financial and managerial capacities of local governments to improve their performance, the program will promote the participation of local communities, including women and young people, in decisions on how public funds are allocated. The program will also contribute to improving direct access to municipal services for about 500,000 inhabitants living in disadvantaged communities.
“This program has a built in incentive for local governments to raise their standards of service delivery and more fully engage their citizens, by providing progressive rewards for improved performance, said Jaafar Sadok Friaa, World Bank Task Team Leader for the Program. “By including citizens in investment planning and making information on municipal actions available to all, this program also aims to answer the equally strong demand for more voice and participation.”
This program forms part of a proposed US$1.2 billion financial package for Tunisia in 2014 announced by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim; an amount four times more than the Bank’s contribution to Tunisia in the pre-revolution period, and double the amount provided since.